The Streets – The Darker the Shadow the Brighter the Light
In their first studio album since 2011’s Computers and Blues, The Streets – led, conducted and regularly transformed by frontman Mike Skinner – offer a punchy collection of snapshots capturing the shifting magic of life seen from the DJ booth.
These tracks are not overcrowded. Skinner strips back eponymous garage and drum and bass beats to fit around samples lifted from outside of these genres: a country-style guitar on Walk of Shame, piano and brass from a worn-down vinyl on the title track. Vocally, he wanders around in his trademark confessional tone, saying exactly what he sees, without dissimulation – never afraid to capture some poetry if it presents itself. None of it is complex, none of it is complicated and there are moments of locally-grounded brilliance: “She had the look of a fox that wasn’t walking away / When you catch them in your street and it’s still almost day / And they don’t give a f***”.
The features provided by long-time collaborators Robert Harvey (known for his work with The Music) and Kevin Mark Trail (a contributor on The Streets’s legendary debut Original Pirate Material) provide some welcome depth to the record, emboldening the outlines of its third dimension. Once Skinner has warmed up, reaching numbers like Not a Good Idea and Kick the Can, he gets to work proving that he knows how to keep a crowd happy: the energy is more contagious, the beat is more persuasive and you can hear that he’s having fun with it. While we’re still lacking that trance-like, transcendent quality we might want from a dance record, there’s a convincing vitality breaking through the grey landscape that The Streets traverse and describe – the clouds, the concrete, the faces without smiles.
The nightclub-based visual for Troubled Waters, released this past summer, spells it out most clearly: there are cigarettes and geese, and it looks like it’s about to rain, but at least we can distract ourselves after work. Once again, with The Darker the Shadow the Brighter the Light, The Streets don’t pretend that there’s any glamour involved in this scene, but they remind us that there is always some good in it.
Photo: Ben Cannon
The Darker the Shadow the Brighter the Light is released on 13th October 2023. For further information or to order the album visit The Streets’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Each Day Gives here: